TBILISI (Eurasia.net) — The murky disappearance of an Azerbaijani journalist from Tbilisi and his sudden reappearance in Baku have deepened concerns that Georgia, for all its reputation as a developing democracy, may, in fact, be helping its authoritarian neighbor, Azerbaijan, chase down self-exiled Azerbaijani dissidents.
On the evening of May 29, freelance reporter Afgan Mukhtarli was on his way to meet his wife Leyla Mustafayeva, another Azerbaijani journalist, in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Mustafayeva said that her husband last called her when he was just a few blocks away from the pair’s home in Tbilisi, but he never showed up. She called the police and raised alarm with the media. The Georgian police stated on May 30 that a full-scale search was underway for Mukhtarli, but, just a few hours later, news broke that the journalist was in a Baku prison.
Mustafayeva thinks that her husband was abducted by Azerbaijan’s secret services and forcibly taken across the Georgian-Azerbaijani border. “He was investigating [Azerbaijani President Ilham] Aliyev family’s business in Georgia,” she said at a press-conference.
The journalist’s passport reportedly remained in Tbilisi.
Whether the Georgian authorities cooperated with any alleged special operation by Azerbaijan or whether Baku acted without their knowledge is unclear.